Web analytics can be daunting. So much data, so many things to look at and where do we even get started? In this blogpost I want to outline some key features of Google Analytics and show you how we've made it super easy to use them with Impact Stack.
Why use web analytics?
Web analytics usually refers to analytics tools that provide an insight into what's going on within a web application or on a website. In most cases the data is anonymised and not directly linked to contact data or donor data.
Popular analytics tools we're using with Impact Stack are Google Analytics, Piwik, KISS Metrics, Mixpanels and MouseFlow. In this blogpost I will outline basic principles on how web analytics work with Impact Stack and focus on Google Analytics (GA) and the super tight integration we've developed.
What Google Analytics can tell you
In general Google Analytics (like many other tools) provide you with data about:
- Unique visitors, people who're looking at your website
- Lots of other data about these people (like their browser, their device, etc.)
- Where these people are coming from (I'll explain this in more detail later)
- Which pages these people are looking at
- What they are clicking on (this is called event tracking in Google Analytics)
- What people are typing, for an example the amount chosen on the donation form (in the case of Google Analytics it's wise to use eCommerce Tracking for donation forms)
The sheer amount of data is often daunting. However, it's important that you pay attention the most relevant information for your organisation and don't drown in your data. Focusing on the number of visits on your pages is what's usually referred to as "vanity metric" - it's a lovely number but it doesn't really say a lot about the success of your action.
Key metrics for non-profits
In campaigning and online fundraising there are a few things that you should really focus on when tracking performance of your action pages or donation forms.
For action pages the key metrics you should track are:
- Conversion rate (CR): the propotion of people who look at the page and also take action
- Conversion rate by channel: in particular checking if the CR is very high from emails you've sent to your list
- Number of shares in relation to conversions: how many people share the action
- Traffic as a result of these shares: to predict growth and test the effectiveness of things like the Facebook preview, the headline, etc.
For donation pages these "key metrics" tend to be:
- Total income from those donations
- Type of donations: regular donations versus one-off donations
- Average donation amount
- Average donation amount by channel and traffic source
- Conversion rate: how many people who look at the page also give
- Conversion rate by acquisition channel: where do most donors come from?
One thing you will notice when you simply throw the Google Analytics script on a page, is that the system doesn't spit out the numbers I've listed above. That's why we've built two things into Impact Stack that will get you started in no time.
We've implemented Google Analytics "Event tracking" that allows you to track clicks (on things like share buttons or track form submissions) and Google Analytics eCommerce tracking (it collects data about the donations made).
Tracking form submissions
To be able to track the conversion rate on an action page you have to set up a "Conversion Goal" in Google Analytics. But finding the right URL to turn into a "conversion goal", and filtering out all the other traffic that might end up on the thank you page, (for some reason) can be quite annoying.
The GA tracking built into Impact Stack automatically shows you when someone submits a form. No setup required whatsoever.
Here is a spreadsheet you can check that shows all events Impact Stack will send to Google Analytics.
The next challenge is to track shares. Usually share buttons are links to social media platforms where you can post something like a tweet or a Facebook status update. So you can't really track whether someone did post but you can track whether a visitor has clicked on the link.
That works out of the box with Impact Stack and you will see the clicks on the share buttons - you can even drill down to see how many people have chosen which button.
So now you know how many people will have clicked on the share buttons. But to really understand what that means you should also track something else: how much traffic do these share buttons generate? You can do that by adding little tracking parameters to the URL that people share so Google Analytics can see the traffic that originally came from a share button. Impact Stack will automatically add these tracking bits to the URL for you.
But if you prefer a simpler version you can just look at the traffic by source and filter out traffic from Facebook, Twitter and other channels that you're offering as share option.
Tracking donation forms
If you're in fundraising this is the bit that will be interesting for you. To see the metrics I've outlined above, you need the "Google eCommerce Tracking". It's originally designed to work for online stores but as it turns out, it can be used for donation pages as well. You simply have to exchange a few labels in your head while you're working with it:
- The product is a specific donation page in your fundraising tool
- The price is the amount the person has given
- You can see whether it's a regular donation or a one-off donation through "product categories"
Surprise! This tracking integration works with Impact Stack donation pages out of the box.
If you know exactly how your donation form will look like, it's really simple with a few lines of code to also add the funnel report from the eCommerce tracking to your donation page. Then you will always know where people fall through the cracks and abandon the form.
Where do donors and supporters come from?
One of the challenges in online campaigning and online fundraising is to find out where those people are coming from that really do take action - or make a donation. Most analytics tools use trackable URLs to solve this problem.
These tracked URLs work with little strange blobs at the end of the URL like ?utm_source=SOMETHING. Impact Stack has its own system to track URL parameters but we've built it in a smart way. If you use Google Analytics, Impact Stack will simply listen to the GA URL parameters instead.
There is no need to get confused by URL parameters, just use a URL builder like this one from Google and you won't have to deal with them too much. By using these tracked URLs, you can create a different link for everything that you really want to track. For an example you can know:
- how many people came to your website as a result of someone else sharing the action
- how many people came straight from an email you've sent
- how many people came from a link you've posted on your Facebook page
- how many people have come from a paid ad somewhere
Best of all: once you have these links set up, you can then filter all the reports (like the conversion rate on an action or donation page) by where people are coming from. You may find out that the average donation of people visiting your website as a result of a very specific campaign is 300% higher than from other sources. Would be good to repeat that, right?
Or you may find out that the traffic resulting from shares is exactly 0.3 visitors per click on a share button. If you also know that around 25% of all people who take action then go ahead to share it, you can estimate how much more signups you can get by improving the share ask. This is where the fun begins!
Advanced form tracking
Sometimes it's really annoying that you know exactly how many people came from Facebook and have singed up (as a result of shares) but you don't really know WHO these people are. On your email list you can't tell the difference whether they have signed up via Facebook or some other channel.
That's where Impact Stack form tracking comes in. If you create an action with Impact Stack all the tracking data we've discussed will also be saved whenever someone submits a form. That means you can later segment your supporters based on the channel, the exact path they've taken through your website and many other things.
Now you hopefully know more about tracking and how Impact Stack uses smart yet simple integrations to take the hassle out of tracking. If you have any questions feel free to ask and we're looking forward to pasting your Google UID on your new Impact Stack installation.
And for all the Piwik fans out there - yes, we also love open source web analytics. A blogpost about the Piwik integration will follow later this year!